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Odisha’s Chilika Lake Largest Habitat Of Endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins In The World

Odisha’s Chilika Lake Largest Habitat Of Endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins In The World
Irrawaddy dolphins in Chilika Lake. (Source – Twitter account of All India Radio)

Discovering India

Odisha’s Chilika Lake Largest Habitat Of Endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins In The World

The announcement came after the first annual monitoring exercise of the lake.

There’s reason to cheer for wildlife enthusiasts in Odisha and the rest of the country. The Chilika Lake has become the world’s single largest habitat of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins with 155 spottings of these animals.

The spottings came during the first annual monitoring exercise held by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) on 24 February.

This followed close on the heels of the annual census carried out by the government’s Wildlife Wing which reported 152 dolphins. This number was significantly higher than the 100 dolphins sighted during last year’s census.

Unlike earlier, the dolphins were now seen in all sectors of the lake due to removal of obstructions to their movement, news reports quoted CDA Chief Executive Susanta Nanda as saying.

Here is what the CDA Chief Executive shared on Twitter.

The annual monitoring exercise was carried out to count the number of the Irrawaddy dolphins, described as the flagship marine species in Chilika Lake, and assess the hydrological impact of the removal of the pen culture (also known as gherries).

The Irrawaddy dolphin is an endangered species that is found in tropical and sub-tropical waters. Besides the Indo-Pacific region, they are found in freshwater rivers in Burma, Indonesia and Laos. They are also found in Songkhla Lake in Thailand, a brackish water system like Chilika.

The exercise was carried out by 28 teams which included members from the wildlife and forest departments, the CDA, NGOs and representatives of the local boat association.

Another important finding is that Chilika Lake, which is a major tourist attraction in Odisha, houses nearly 0.9 million birds. No new species, however, could be identified during the monitoring exercise. “However, it has been observed that the birds, mainly the migratory ducks, have started colonizing new areas previous covered by the pen culture as their new habitat,” the report said.

Here is an image shared on Twitter by Biswajit Mohanty, who describes himself as a chartered accountant, author and wildlife conservationist.

The CDA Chief Executive pointed out that several areas along the lake now offered a tremendous opportunity for eco-tourism due to the congregation of these migratory birds in the winter. The lake and its adjoining areas are part of a popular tourist circuit that includes the Jagannath Temple in Puri, the Sun Temple in Konark, the sea resort of Gopalpur and state capital Bhubaneswar.

Interestingly, the first monitoring exercise witnessed another first – all motorized fishing boats as well boats that ferry tourists across the lake stopped operating for the duration of the survey from early morning to noon.

The authorities were upbeat due to another major development. The extend sea grass bed, that had shrunk to 86 sq km in 2016, had shown a marked improvement. The area now stood at 135 sq km, including ground trothing. “This will give ample opportunity for mud crabs to grow,” said Nanda.

Another important finding was the re-appearance of sponge, which was present before 1985 but had disappeared thereafter. This indicated a healthy and clean eco-system, the report pointed out.

The Chilika Lake, which is a brackish water lagoon off the Bay of Bengal, is spread across three districts, Puri, Khurda and Ganjam. Supporting a unique marine eco-system, it is a hot spot of biodiversity and was designated as a Ramsar Site (a wetland site of international importance) in 1981.

There are several places where tourists head out in a boat to spot some dolphins and visit one of the several islands along the lake. Among the most popular is Satpada. For bird lovers, Nalabana and Mangalajodi are a must-visit.

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